Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Keighley to Ilkley via Rombalds Moor 20/04/13

In the days before the flight to the seaside or garden centre, it was a tradition for the citizens of Bradford and Airedale to walk across Rombalds Moor on Bank Holidays to crowd the spas and hostelries of Ilkley for the day before catching the last train home, and the walking half of that tradition is well worth keeping in my eyes. This was my plan for May Day, but it got shoved forward as I'm going to need some days out of the walking schedule to replace some necessary household gear, and today was going to be taken out as I desperately need new work shoes (having had both my pairs reach the point of unwearability about six weeks ago), but a gorgeous spring day surely can't be wasted on shopping alone. So a short walk can be dropped in to conveniently link two phases of my walking exploits for this year, as well as allowing me to not have to rise with the lark and to have time to seek out appropriate new footwear afterwards, so onwards to the high moors again!

Keighley to Ilkley via Rombalds Moor.  6.1 miles.

Dalton Mills, Keighley
Off the train after 11.10am, and depart Keighley station heading north, soon taking the turn onto Dalton Lane, passing the Keighley Campus of Leeds City College, which is probably one of the most distinctive buildings in the town, which is a shame because a little further along the road is Dalton Mills, an imposing and Italianate building which is only partially occupied these days, the bulk of it still soot blackened and semi-derelict, and would probably be a candidate for a cultural centre makeover if it wasn't for the fact that Salts Mill is only a few miles downriver. Turn on to Worth Bridge Road to meet the River Worth, and the start of the Aire Valley Greenway, linking the town to the canal for those on two wheels, but for me it's a short distance along the still semi-industrial riverside before diving beneath the A650, and then detouring to continue along the riverbank behind the houses of Aireworth Grove before returning to road walking along Aireworth Road. Pass the home of Old Bear brewery, and wonder how that one has managed to escape me in 20 years of ale drinking, and hit Bradford Road to hit the ascent up to the crossing of the River Aire, and then its out of Keighley and into Riddlesden, and it's already starting to feel very warm going down here in the river valley.

Press on up Bar Lane to meet the familiar territory of the redeveloping canalside around Bridge 197 over the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, and then it's through the 1930s vintage houses to find the footpath that starts the steep ascent up to the high edge of Airedale. It's hard going, despite being well cobbled, but it's entirely preferable to road walking, especially when a wooded glade along the side of the beck cutting down the hillside opens out and the path turns to steps before reaching Banks Lane, where the houses are slightly older and more expensive looking. Pound up the next section, continuing the harsh rate of ascent, until we emerge onto Ilkley Road, in what looks like the older part of Riddlesden, and I love the fact that there is a pub at the top of this footpath, but it's really too early for a pint at the Willow Tree, of for a brew at the Methodists Church coffee morning for that matter. Turn right on up Ilkey Road and start to get some nice views into Airedale as the road rises out of the village and once the top lane is passed and the last sharp rise is made through the trees, Ilkley Road becomes a steady rise up through the high farm lands and the sharp spring breeze ensures that all the heat from the valley is dispersed, and I must note that all the farmsteads along here look desirable under these skies. Airedale doesn't have a reputation for being particularly green and leafy, but the stretch between Bingley and Keighley looks pretty good today, and the view that opens up with the high moors of Brontë country beyond is not quite scrapbook worthy but a damn good one, nonetheless.

Morton Moor
Meeting the crossroads with the high lane, we find the most incongruous selection of bungalows and prefab chalets, which must be a fun place to be when winter hits hard, and before hitting the road to the moor an old car passes, a Sunbeam Rapier, if my detective skills are correct. The moor road sets off, dead straight as the land on either side gradually gets scratchier, but there isn't a distinct line at the point where cultivation ends like there was at the edge of Bingley Moor. Past Upwood Hall farm, it's rough pasture, and the moor doesn't really take hold until Bradup Cottage is passed, surely one of the lonelier farmsteads in this county. Morton Moor, which is today's division of Rombalds Moor, is largely a runoff basin for the streams which feed Morton Beck, and has a completely different character from the moors of heather and peat, it's all long yellowed grass for most of the way along the mile of straight road, which despite terminating at the top of the moor, still seems to have plenty of traffic. The destination at Whetstone Gate is never in doubt as the telephone masts are an obvious landmark, and as the road turns and rises we only get the slightest of views in the direction of Pendle Hill as the shallow angle of ascent precludes good views down that way, but there's definitely more rough gritstone in the landscape up this way as the heather starts to take over as the ground cover of choice.

Cowper's Cross
Whetstone Gate seems positively crowded with runners, walkers and folks out to enjoy the country, and pass through the gate that leads onto Ilkley Moor and the road becomes unmetalled to prevent motorists taking on the old droving route between the markets of Airedale and Wharfedale. You haven't travelled far over the crest of the moor before the Wharfedale landmarks start to emerge, and the Menwith Hill listening station is first in sight, followed by Beamsley Beacon and the Washburn telephone mast. A short detour is on order to see Cowper's Cross, an ancient wayside marker that has stones which probably aren't all that ancient and this is a good point to drop for lunch as I look off up into Upper Wharfedale and find that my mind can make much more sense of those hills than it did last time I was up here and looking in that direction. Heading on downhill, the moor looks very dry, even after midweek rains, and it's again nothing like Bingley Moor with its almost constant leakage, and there a lot of foot traffic up here, of all vintages and abilities, and also one berk who is convinced that his 4x4 is going to go all the way over the moor, honestly I hope he cooks his gearbox. I don't take the shortcut down by Spicey Gill, instead sticking to the road, which winds its way down pretty sharply to meet the tarmac again at the lane to Silver Wells cottage, where many more cars are parked.

Wells Hotel, Ilkley
On familiar groundone more, the road is pounded very gently in tiny steps as it would be very easy to barrel down here with some abandon, and I resist the temptation to detour into the rough land towards White Wells, as I am doing the shortest direct route over the moor and there will be more opportunities to tramp these paths when the Bradford Millennium way comes calling. It's funny that the roughest part of Rombalds Moor is the part that is closest to civilisation, and I still think its odd how the town has expanded right up to the moorland's edge, with the Wells hotel being mere yards from some very wild lands indeed. So back onto Wells Road and the descent into town, again trod in dainty steps and despite taking the road parallel to the twice-walked Promenade, I resolve to take a different route into Ilkley on the next occasion that I descend from the moors. roll up at Ilkley station and it's 1.50pm, and that's been a very good lunchtime walk, and I really should do more short days rather than always trying to do days in the 10-14 mile bracket. Also, that gives me a 45 minute window to seek out more walking guides from the Tourist Information, and to get two new pairs of reasonably priced boots (and banter aplenty!) at Mountain Warehouse. Yeah, I'm a typical male aren't I? I really don't need a whole afternoon to do my shopping!

Next on the Slate: The longest stretch of the Pennine Way attempted so far.

1,000 Miles Cumulative Total: 579.4 miles
(2013 total: 114.1  miles)

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